Tuesday, February 2, 2010

"My" Russians

an excerpt of a letter written to my wife
Now to the Riga, Latvia Burlak.. connection.
Your maternal grandmother known to all as Anna Sosnovsky, was born Hinde Luchkovsky in Tal'noye, Ukraine, Imperial Russia to Zipporah Burlakov, who was married to Gershn Luchkovsky. Baba Tsipoyra, as she was called us, was daughter of Feivl Burlak...
Feivl had a number of siblings -- I've forgotten their first names -- one of whom was father to 4 or 5 sons and one daughter. The oldest son was Ulyi and youngest Grigory. Ulyi left Tal'noye in about 1921 0r 22 and made it to the US a few years later after quite a set of tribulations. Here he adopted Tsipoyra's sister Ruchl as his mother, although she was "merely" his aunt. That made Ida (Bea Jaffe's mom), Fannie (my mother), Hinde, whose name translates as Anna into English, and Leah (who took the name Liza) a first cousin of Ulyi Burlak.., who adopted the name Lou, and after WWII changed it to Louis Burle.
That makes me a first cousin twice removed, maybe, or a second cousin. I don't know quite how to figure that stuff out.
About 18 months ago I got an email from an unknown person named Mary Klevit... in Harrisburg, PA, who claimed that she was inquiring on behalf of Burlak... in Riga and Ukraine: was I a Burlakov from Tal'noye. My answer was a resounding yes. She then telephoned me, we spoke at length, and then I received a few emails from Ukraine together with pre-Revolutionary and current photos of people, two of whom I recognized as Baba Tsipoyra and Ruchl when they were in their late teens or early 20s. I responded by some old and some recent photos of Yulyi, who we called either Lulyi or Lou, his wife Minna, ac concert pianist, and other in the family including Anna, Abe, Rina, and Tisa. That established our tie. The correspondents in Ukraine knew no English and my Russian is rudimentary and rusty enough that I couldn't ace up to the prospect of taking a few days to write only a paragraph or two of unidiomatic Russian.
That put an end to the correspondence until this past January when I got a phone call from a young woman named Iri.. Burlak.. who was telephoning on behalf of her father, Leonid, in Latvia, to wish me Happy New Year. She also passed on the news that she was coming to New York to work for a perfume company there. I asked her to call me and I would come to NYC to meet her.

To make a long story short, the birthday girl is a cousin of my wife's who she recently became aware of. The cousin's part of the family stayed in Russia while the other branch emigrated in the early 1900's. A story very similar to Across The Sea Of Time.

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